STEM Learning Communities Program 2011-2012

The UGA Office of STEM Education has awarded start-up funding to nine STEM learning communities as part of the University System of Georgia’s STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). These collaborative groups are charged with developing and sharing professional knowledge to improve STEM student learning at all levels of education. Below are summaries of the successfully-funded learning communities for 2011-2012.

Franklin, Chris

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Statistics Department

Maddox, Kaycie

Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA), Mathematics Specialist

A.P. Statistic Professional Learning Community (Final Report)

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The AP Statistics Professional Learning Community will meet monthly during the 2011-2012 school year, facilitated by Franklin and Maddox to support AP Statistics teachers in local high schools. The purpose of the group is of ongoing collaboration and calibration of AP Statistics learning objectives and implementation to prepare students to be successful on the AP exam. Members of the learning community will make a presentation at the 2011 Fall Conference for the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics on using median-median lines in statistical analysis and their connections to lines of regression.

Shifren, Ted

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Mathematics Department

Hooten, Pam

Morgan County Schools

Whitmire, Paula

Oconee County Schools

Northeast Georgia A.P. Calculus Learning Community (Final Report)

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AP teachers are often the only ones in their respective schools teaching the College Board’s challenging college-level courses. Due to the challenging and isolated nature of the work, it is essential to find a space for open collaboration to hone teachers’ pedagogical skills. The Northeast GA AP Calculus Learning Community was formed in 2005 with 14 members and continues to meet monthly to share lessons, deepen understanding of math, broaden expertise, develop motivational strategies and review techniques so that students might earn exemplary scores on the College Board exam. Additionally, the community participates in hands-on activities that sharpen student skills. Currently, 16 high school teachers represent 11 school districts. Two of the members are professors in the UGA Mathematics Department.

Dustman, Wendy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Microbiology Department

Biotech Boot Camp Learning Community (Final Report)

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There is a growing concern that the U.S. is failing to prepare a sufficient number of teachers in the area of STEM. Reports cite the lack of qualified teachers as one factor impacting improved student learning and achievement. Not only do teachers need training in basic skills, they need continued support as they implement new ideas and skills into their curricula. The goal of the learning community is for Georgia high school teachers who participated in the UGA Biotech Boot Camp program to interact with STEM UGA faculty to improve the knowledge and skills of Georgia STEM high school teachers. The ultimate goal of the learning community is to enhance the academic performance of high school students. The learning community will meet monthly via Skype or a similar Internet technology.

White, Dorothy

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics Department

Mathematics Pedagogical Problem Solvers (MPPS) (Final Report)

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During 2010-11, the MPPS met on a regular basis to assess pedagogical needs and discuss how they could benefit from knowing more about students’ mathematical strengths and cultures through the cultural toolkit. The MPPS acts as a learning community where mathematics teachers and teacher educators identify, discuss and resolve problems of practice that teachers encounter as they instruct mathematics to middle school students. The community seeks to balance assessment, instruction and time; identify student misconceptions; and finally, differentiate instruction for remediation and acceleration. The group will meet during the 2011-12 year to discuss progress in identifying students’ mathematic strengths and teachers’ problems of practice.

Kutal, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Associate Dean; and Chemistry Department

Coleman, Dava

Jackson County Schools

Chemistry Learning Community (Final Report)

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Since 2005, the Chemistry Learning Community has met to discuss the improvement of chemistry education. Each year new members are recruited from UGA chemistry faculty and graduate students and chemistry teachers in the local area. Currently there are 13 members in all. The community is content-focused and the topics for all meetings are set at the first meeting of the school year.

Fertig, Chad

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Physics and Astronomy Department

Physics Learning Community: Scientific Method (or Madness)? (Final Report)

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This Physics Learning Community explores differences between how the scientific method is portrayed in middle school, high school and college, and how that portrayal conforms to what scientists “actually do”. The community examines the extent STEM education at all levels teaches STEM subject matter but fails to cultivate in students an accurate impression of what it means to do things “scientifically”. Learning Community participants are able to take away examples for immediate use in their own classrooms.

Nickelsen, Todd

Oconee River Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center (GYSTC) at Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)

Regional Science Learning Community

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Four years of regional data indicate that many teachers at elementary and middle school levels are not 100% comfortable with science content they are required to teach. In an effort to help science teachers improve their content, pedagogy, and assessment knowledge and skills; foster student enthusiasm for STEM content; and prepare schools for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the Oconee River GYSTC has created the Regional Science Learning Community. The RSLC includes 6-12 elementary and middle school teachers from the NEGA RESA region as well as several higher education faculty. The community will represent 13 school systems and include a continuum of expertise to allow teachers of all levels to learn from one another. Goals will be to identify, share, implement and reflect upon strategies, lessons and assessments that facilitate student understanding of earth and physical science standards at elementary and middle school levels.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology Department

College Science Education Research Group Learning Community (Final Report)

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The University of Georgia has chosen to support science education reform efforts in its large introductory and upper division science courses by hiring tenure-track faculty to teach and assess new methods of instruction. These tasks can only succeed if education research science faculty can collaborate with peers in their new field. The College Science Education Research Group Learning Community is comprised of faculty and graduate students from STEM departments as well as departments of Educational Psychology and Math and Science Education. The goal of the learning community is to share knowledge and research the effectiveness of student learning strategies for college students enrolled in STEM courses. The community engages in collaborative research projects such as testing new methods of critical thinking assessment, using interactive animations, incorporating more writing and training future faculty.

Adams, Malcolm

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Blount, Sandy

Clarke County Schools

Math Curriculum Team (Final Report)

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The STEM Mathematics Curriculum Team (MCT) is a diverse group of educators committed to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics and statistics. It is composed of 2 statisticians, 2 mathematicians, 3 math educators, 1 doctoral student in educational psychology, 1 high school teacher, 1 middle school teacher, and 1 high school math coach. The MCT goals are as follows: 1) Examine textbooks to see how they align with the CCGPS and elaborate on connections between topics and with university-level mathematics and statistics. 2) Study 2-3 major concepts from the CCGPS high school and middle school curriculum, tracing the development of these concepts in the secondary curriculum, the development of these concepts in UGA mathematics education courses, and how advanced ideas in UGA mathematics and statistics courses relate to these concepts. 3) Use our enhanced understandings from goal 1 to inform and improve how each of us teaches ideas related to these major concepts.